As a Republican and former New Jersey State Senator, I have been following the "anointing" of Chris Christie with a great deal of interest. It has been over a decade since a Republican was elected state-wide and ironically the similarity is spooky. That person's name was also Christie and as far as Republicans are concerned, her gubernatorial tenure left the Republican Party in New Jersey in disarray.
Given the complete control of the governor's office and both houses of the legislature, Christie Whitman had a golden opportunity to do a lot of party building. Instead, it seemed and has been accepted in most political circles, that Christie Whitman's political activities were aimed at her own political agenda and rarely focused at party-building. Given the name of her book, "It's My Party Too", there is a great deal of irony.
Now we see Chris Christie as the clear front runner for the Republican nomination due to an incredibly stellar job as US Attorney for the Southern District of New Jersey. It would be foolhardy for anyone to question the job done, 132 convictions and 0 acquittals: masterful to say the least.
I suspect that the anticipation is for Mr. Christie to bring the same type of record and acumen to the job of governor. However, while I hold out hope, I have to express a certain amount of skepticism due his lack of direct answers to specific questions regarding issues confronting New Jersey.
Mr. Christie's evasive answers to questions may be able to get him a nomination, but when it comes to a General Election, people are going to pay a great deal more attention. I recently reviewed his first set of specific answers to issues, from a January 30, 2009 presentation, and came away disappointed. I'd like to offer some advice from personal experience.
To say that he supports lower income and corporate taxes is a mantra of Republican policy wonks for a long time. Given the corporate greed of Wall Street, I would suggest that anything that looks or sounds like a give-away is going to turn people off, including the Republican base. Sounds good, but unless he can find a way to lower property taxes, people are going to continue to get hammered because of local spending and having to fund the Abbott school districts. The New Jersey exodus will continue, leaving fewer and fewer people to shoulder the burden.
My suggestion: Audit every government entity that gets a dime of state money. Follow the money, find the waste and stop the 20%+ salary increases that some government workers are getting. How can the national unemployment rate be 7.6% and no one is being laid off from any government job in New Jersey? Why are there wage increases in the face of the national economy? Talk about that and people will listen instead of the same old tired republican song that hasn't been selling for over a decade.
As to his comment regarding transparency in government, I really don't understand it. To say that NJ's budget is higher than the $32 billion figure and is more like $60 billion is great, but, so what? You are preaching to the choir. The voters want – and need – to know what you are going to do about it. In the General Election, the question is going to be a great deal tougher and subjected to a lot more scrutiny. And as to the word "transparency," I'd suggest that this statement doesn't address it at all. Perhaps it would be better to say that all budgeting and expenditures would be done on line and available to be seen by the general public. Now that would be real transparency.
It is a great sound bite to say you are going to gut COAH. However, the voters are going to want to know how this will be accomplished within the framework of the law and recent court decisions. While it is obvious that the current attempt to implement the program is wrought with problems and intrusive on suburban communities, how will Mr. Christie make it better for the state?
Finally, for the purposes of this column, Mr. Christie talks about Urban Revitalization/Education and the need to empower cities and improve education for inner city kids.
I'd respectively suggest that he visit my web site: www.solutionsfornewjersey.com, where he will find a constitutionally viable school funding formula for all 611 school districts.
I would also direct him and his staff to re-visit the "Urban Re-development Act" which was passed and signed into law. I sponsored it and both the Heritage Foundation and Urban Institute praised the conceptual construct behind it.
Unfortunately no administration, since its passage has chosen to apply the power of this legislation to improve the lot of New Jersey's cities. It is not necessary to re-invent anything, the tools already exit. All you have to do is read them, understand them and take ownership of them.
Remember, history teaches us that if we do not pay attention, we are doomed to repeat the past. That includes not only policy, but the people who have run failed campaigns. Remember, the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expect a different outcome. New Jersey Republicans are notorious for this.